Friday, April 24, 2015

1968 and 1963



-------------------- [excerpt] --------------- Camelot was in retreat....the living symbol of that one brief shining moment had fled to the Mediterranean.

...Pundits prematurely wrote an end to John Kennedy's era...

But there were enduring signs that Americans were not willing to let go of their fallen leader.

On the fifth anniversary of JFK's assassination, thousands again showed up spontaneously at the Arlington gravesite to pay tribute. 

Memorial services were held in many places, not least Dallas, where the mayor placed flowers in Dealey Plaza and the nurses at Parkland Hospital left a wreath on the door of Trauma Room One. 

And when Apollo 8

circled the moon on Christmas Eve, at last providing a soaring achievement to conclude America's annus horribilis, John Kennedy's pledge of manned space exploration was prominently cited by the news media.

Despite all that had happened since November 1963, the nation's memory of the Kennedy years was fresh and mainly favorable, its admiration for a martyred president undimmed....

--------- Chapter 15.


The resurrection of Richard Nixon has no clear parallel in American politics. ...


One can only imagine Nixon's inner thoughts as he heard about President Kennedy's assassination, but the next day, he wrote a note to Jackie that suggests he had been genuinely saddened:

In this tragic hour, Pat and I want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.  While the hand of fate made Jack and me political opponents I always cherished the fact that we were personal friends from the time we came to the Congress together in 1947.  That friendship evidenced itself in many ways including the invitation we received to attend your wedding.  Nothing I could say now could add to the splendid tributes which have come from throughout the world.  But I want you to know that the nation will also be forever grateful for your service as First Lady.  You brought to the White House charm, beauty and elegance as the official hostess of America, and the mystique of the young in heart which was uniquely yours made an indelible impression on the American consciousness.  If in the days ahead we could be helpful in any way we shall be honored to be at your command.

At the same time, Nixon's keen political mind no doubt analyzed the aftermath quickly:  President Johnson would be a heavy favorite for election in 1964,

but the natural cycles of politics

might make 1968 a very different situation.

Few establishment Republicans, and certainly not Nixon, thought Barry Goldwater would have a chance to win; his decisive defeat would strengthen Nixon's opportunity for 1968.  After all, Nixon had nearly won the presidency and he was already the party's senior statesman.

History played out precisely that way. ...


{excerpts:  The Kennedy Half Century, by Larry J. Sabato.  Bloomsbury-2013}


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